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Intercultural Engagement and Language Learning


Our new 3-year (2020-2023) research project "The Impact of Intercultural Engagement on Asian Language Learning Outcomes" (Jiwon Hwang, PIEriko Sato and Agnes He, co-PIs; Sarah Jourdain, internal evaluator) has been selected for funding by the US Department of Education (see

Project Abstract

The Impact of Intercultural Engagement on Asian Language Learning Outcomes

PI: Jiwon Hwang; Co-PIs: Eriko Sato and Agnes He

Stony Brook University

Chinese, Japanese and Korean are designated as ‘national security languages’ for the U.S. and also as ‘the most difficult languages’ for speakers of English.  How can we teach these languages effectively? As globalization and digitization have brought geographically distant Asian cultures to our college campuses and to our social media, is this cultural diversity and immediacy being consciously leveraged for our students’ Asian language learning outcomes? And while it is widely acknowledged that multiple levels of socio-cultural contexts impact language learning, how can we purposefully plan and promote intercultural engagement to enhance students’ motivation and investment, which are positively correlated with learning outcomes?  

Drawing on current socio-cultural models of second language acquisition and on intercultural communication research, we propose to examine the impact of specific intercultural engagement practices by undergraduates on their Asian language learning in a large public research university.

Our main research questions are:

(1) What kinds and what degrees of intercultural engagement do undergraduate students experience in the contexts of Chinese, Japanese and Korean language classes from elementary to advanced level courses?

(2) What kinds of intercultural engagement lead to (a) better results in Asian language learning and (b) higher levels of intercultural competence?

In order to address these questions, we propose a 2-phased study, employing cross-sectional surveys, focus-group interviews of undergraduate students and their instructors as well as experimental studies. Phase I will be a descriptive study, identifying intercultural engagement practices that contribute to positive learning outcomes.  Phase II will be a controlled study, testing the robustness of the set of intercultural engagement practices identified in Phase I. 

The proposed project will recommend specific pedagogical measures to effectively build upon and purposefully design and implement specific intercultural engagement practices that lead to desirable learning outcomes.  The findings can be directly applicable for Asian language classrooms across all levels of K-16, and easily adaptable for non-Asian language classrooms as well as other international education programs such as Study Abroad. The proposed study will generate research-based knowledge to benefit US universities looking for data-driven best practices to guide their global language instruction in particular and international education in general.